You can probably remember the biggest home runs in Yankees’ World Series history. Ones like Jim Leyritz’s game-tying shot in Game 4 of 1996, or say any of Reggie Jackson’s three in 1977 Game 6 come to mind, but there are countless others.
You can also probably remember ones that were massive at the time but happened during a year the Yankees lost the World Series. There was the three memorable shots that helped the Yankees rally and win Games 4 and 5 of the 2001 Fall Classic. You might be too young to remember, but there are even blasts like Yogi Berra’s in Game 7 in 1960, which rallied the Yankees out of a 4-2 hole to take the lead before a crazy last couple innings ended with Bill Mazeroski winning the championship for the Pirates.
In going back through history, there are a few underrated homers from that second category. It didn’t happen in a clinching game, and after it, the heroics were ultimately wasted. The series was only tied and there were still three more games to play. In 1957, Elston Howard (and then later in the game Hank Bauer) very nearly provided the heroics that would’ve had the Yankees at 28 World Series titles today, and instead are often forgotten to history.
After semi-comfortably winning a third consecutive AL pennant, the 1957 Yankees were matched up against the Braves in the World Series, just four years after the latter moved from Boston to Milwaukee. The Yankees had home-field advantage for the matchup, but could only manage a split of the first two games in New York. However, the offense jumped on Milwaukee early in Game 3 at County Stadium, scoring three runs in the first as they blew out the Braves, 12-3. That set up a potentially crucial Game 4.
The Yankees’ task that day didn’t seem easy as they were facing off against a future Hall of Famer and the NL Cy Young winner that year, southpaw Warren Spahn. However once again, they struck in the first inning. A two-out RBI single from Gil McDougald scored Mickey Mantle to give the Yankees an early lead.
Tom Sturdivant was on the mound for the Yankees, and he started Game 4 with three scoreless innings, although he had to work out of some trouble in the second. Then in the fourth, he coughed up the lead. After allowed the first two batters to reach in the fourth, a certain future home run king, Henry Aaron, did just that, taking Sturdivant deep with a three-run homer to give the Braves the lead.
A few batters later, Frank Torre — brother of future Yankee skipper Joe — tacked on another run with a solo shot.
After the first inning, Spahn knuckled down for Milwaukee. While the Yankees’ lineup recorded four hits from the second through eighth innings, they couldn’t add any more runs, hitting into three inning-ending double plays. Then in the ninth came what could’ve been a series-changing sequence.
Spahn retired Bauer and Mantle for the first two outs of the ninth. One out away from a win that would even up the series at two, he allowed singles to Berra and McDougald to keep the game alive. Next up was Howard. After working the count full, the future Monument Park honoree took a Spahn offering down the left-field line and over the fence.
Down to their last strike, the Yankees had tied the game at four. Howard’s homer increased the Yankees’ chances of winning the game by 37 percent according to Win Probability Added and increased the Yankees’ World Series title hopes by 13 percent according to Championship Win Probability Added.
After reliever Tommy Byrne sent the game to extra innings, the Yankees again saw their first two hitters go down in order in the 10th. Tony Kubek kept the frame alive with an infield single, bringing Bauer to the plate. The right fielder hit a deep fly ball to left-center that landed in play. Kubek scored as Bauer raced all the way to third for a go-ahead RBI triple, as Aaron had trouble corralling it.
On this particular hit, the Yankees took a 5-4 lead as their WPA went up by 41 percent, and the cWPA by 12 percent.
However, there was still the bottom of the 10th to go. After hitting the leadoff man, Byrne was removed by Casey Stengel in favor of Bob Grim. Following a sacrifice bunt, Johnny Logan doubled off Grim, tying the game once again. Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews then homered, giving the Braves a wild 7-5 win, and the series was knotted up at two games apiece.
The next day, the Braves won a 1-0 game to take the series lead. The Yankees then got to return home, but needed to win both games to take the series. They won Game 6, but were blanked by former Bomber Lew Burdette in Game 7, giving him the World Series MVP and the Braves the championship — their last for 38 years, by which time they’d long since relocated to Atlanta.
Had the Yankees taken advantage of Howard and Bauer’s heroics, they would’ve had a 3-1 lead. Who knows what happens after that, but it’s hard to imagine them blowing that advantage. Sure there’s the butterfly effect and all that, but if you just go off the rest of the series, that Game 6 win would’ve been enough to clinch the series and add another title to the franchise’s tally. Maybe Howard’s home run and Bauer’s triple wouldn’t have gone down in the all-time pantheon of Yankees’ World Series moments, but they probably wouldn’t be forgotten to time.